I’ve enjoyed the short stories of Saki for a long time without really knowing much about him beyond the Wikipedia basics and I hadn’t really associated him with novels until I saw Capuchin Classics were publishing ‘The Unbearable Bassington’ last year. As luck would have it (but not perhaps for Capuchin’s coffers) I found this penguin edition at exactly the same time but it’s taken until now for me to read it.
I have no shortage of unread books to hand but it’s been a struggle to find something to suit my mood for the last week or two so the reason I picked this up was because it was short. It turned out to be an excellent choice, Saki has the gift of being both very funny and almost unbearably sad at the same time (the ending had me in bits) although now I want more of the same which might be a problem.
‘The Unbearable Bassington’ in question is (presumably) a youth called Comus who is more force of nature than boy, a fated lord of misrule who sails through his school days care of good looks, undeniable charm, and sufficient sporting prowess. Post school and the world isn’t quite so kind to Comus; there are no shortage of charming young men on the town and neither he or his long suffering mother have any money, Comus needs to contract a decent marriage as the chances of him making any sort of hand at a career are slim. Unfortunately he blows it in the marriage stakes through sheer perversity which leaves him with but one option – he’s exported to West Africa in the traditional manner of black sheep in the age of empire.